Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand, no matter your fitness goals. Food is the fuel for your workouts, and your workouts push your body to grow and adapt. Without one or the other, it can be hard to reach your full potential.
However, if you’re making a big change to either one, it can sap your willpower. For example, if you want to completely change your diet, you might be so focused on nutrition that your workouts slide. Or, if it’s a battle to get to the gym multiple times per week, you might reward yourself by letting your nutrition slide a little.
What you prioritize ultimately depends on your goals, but in general, exercise should be your focus. Unless your workouts are already dialed in and can’t get much better, exercise is generally easier to improve.
One reason to prioritize exercise is that it feels better. At the end of a tough workout, you’ll usually feel pretty good. Exercise decreases stress and promotes feelings of happiness. Who doesn’t want that?
On the other hand, overhauling your diet can sap some of the joy from life. Whether you’re cutting back on sugary sweets, salty snacks, or a nice big steak, dieting tends to take away some of the cheap feelings of satisfaction that food can give you.
Exercise provides more concrete goals that can be harder to find in nutrition. If you want to get stronger, your goal is to lift more weight. It’s easy to see your progress in the gym, but harder to monitor progress with your diet. You can measure yourself using a scale or body fat measurement, or you can use a diet tracking app to see the changes in your eating habits.
Unfortunately, none of these methods of tracking can give you as much immediate feedback as a dumbbell. Even your body weight and body fat can fluctuate depending on the day.
Setting performance goals in the gym can actually improve your diet. If you want to run faster, lift more weight, or have more energy in the gym, the obvious solution is to change what you’re eating. As you work harder in the gym, your priorities begin to change. You start to view a poor diet as something that can keep you from your goals.
Ultimately, these two aspects of fitness go hand-in-hand. But, if you’re having trouble getting started, hit the gym first. Either way, fitness is a lifelong journey, so you have ample time to get everything dialed-in. The key is to start with something that can give you a tangible sense of accomplishment, which tends to come from the gym.